It’s do-or-die time as Whanganui Athletic fight for Central League survival

posted in: Central League, News

By Luke Austin

The final round of the 2023 Central League sees all 10 teams in action at the same time, with the five fixtures kicking off simultaneously at 2.30pm this Saturday.

Champions Wellington Olympic host Western Suburbs in a game the away side must win to keep their hopes of National League qualification alive.

Three points at Wakefield Park against the champions seems unlikely for fifth-placed Wests who have struggled in the second half of the season after such a positive start.

Despite their dramatic 4-3 loss to Waterside Karori last weekend, when the winner was scored with the final kick of the game, Petone still find themselves in fourth place.

They can confirm their National League status with a win at home against Stop Out.

Miramar Rangers host the Wellington Phoenix Reserves in the final game of the season at David Farrington Park.

A win for the home side would see them end the season on a three-game winning streak, which would be a positive end to their difficult campaign.

The equation is simple for Whanganui Athletic: beat Karori or be relegated.

It’s a tall task for the home side but they will have the backing of their vocal supporters as they make one final push to try to save their Central League status.

North Wellington can guarantee their safety and condemn Whanganui to relegation if they beat Napier at home.

It is highly likely that a draw would also suffice unless Whanganui win by five or more goals.

Napier were comfortably beaten by Olympic last weekend but a win at Alex Moore Park would see them finish the season in third place and qualify for the National League for the second season running.

Game of the week

If you are in Whanganui this Saturday, Wembley Park is the place to be to witness Whanganui Athletic fight for their survival.

However, for football fans in Wellington, the Lower Hutt derby between Petone and Stop Out looks to be the pick of the bunch.

Stop Out came away with the win last time these two sides met but it is Petone who have it all to play for at Memorial Park as three points would guarantee a place in the National League.

Player to watch

Recent Miramar signing Connor Gillespie has settled in well at his new club, scoring two goals in his last three games, including a stunner against Petone which was nominated for the NZ Football goal of the week.

The former Nelson Suburbs player will look to shine as Miramar take on the Phoenix Reserves at David Farrington Park.

Bold prediction

After backing Whanganui to get a result away to Miramar last weekend, I was at David Farrington Park to witness them lose 5-1 and show why they find themselves on the brink of relegation.

While it would be great to see them cause a huge upset and stay in the league, I struggle to see it happening and expect their fate to be sealed with another heavy defeat.

I’m also backing Napier to comfortably beat North Wellington which would see the ninth-placed side finish on seven points, enough to see them relegated in four of the last three seasons.

If they stay up this season, they can count themselves lucky.


Games to be played on Saturday September 2, 2023

North Wellington v Napier City Rovers
Alex Moore Park, Johnsonville, 2.30pm

Miramar Rangers v Wellington Phoenix Reserves
David Farrington Park, Miramar, 2.30pm

Petone v Stop Out
Petone Memorial Park, Lower Hutt, 2.30pm

Wellington Olympic v Western Suburbs
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, 2.30pm

Whanganui Athletic v Waterside Karori
Wembley Park, Whanganui, 2.30pm

Luke Austin

Luke Austin is a Wellington-based football fan and volunteer, who plays for Island Bay, and follows the Central League.

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